Once bitten. Twice burned. Forever bonded.
Don’t miss this riveting and romantic spin-off series from Jenn Burke, author of Not Dead Yet.
Paranormals are dying. All over the city, with no explanation and only one thing in common: their magic is missing.
Vampire and private investigator Evan Fournier isn’t supposed to be taking on paranormal cases, but when the murderer hits close to home, he agrees to look into it. The last thing he expects is to become a target himself—and then to become irrevocably bonded to the man who just tried to kill him.
With his memory gone and his soul bonded to a stranger, former firefighter Colin Zhang wants to be anywhere else. He doesn’t have a damn clue why he just tried to kill Evan, and he didn’t even know about magic until just now. The sooner he can get back to his real life, the better.
But every time either of them tries to leave, pure agony stops them short. Forced to work with Evan or suffer the consequences, Colin must excavate the secrets buried in his missing memories while battling two rising threats: the conspiracy behind the murder, and his mutual attraction to the bond mate he never wanted.
The Ashes & Dust Series
Book 1: All Fired Up
Book 2: House on Fire
Book 3: Out of the Ashes
Get your copy now!
Read on for a sneak peek at the first chapter…
I squinted at my sketchbook. I knew the face I was drawing like I knew my own, but there was something not quite right about it. The nose? No—the shape of it was good. Wasn’t it? Surely time hadn’t dulled my memories yet. Turning my attention to my phone in its dashboard holder, I flipped through my photo album until I found a favorite photo of my subject. No, the nose was good, but…I should probably draw something else. I stroked a finger over Iskander’s face and turned the screen off.
With a sigh, I flipped to a virgin page and glanced up at the dude I was supposed to be watching. I mean, I was watching him. He just wasn’t doing anything. Roderick Benson had plopped himself in a lounge chair two hours ago and hadn’t moved since, not even to get up and go back into the house to take a leak. He reclined with a fresh beer his wife had brought out to him and called out instructions to the young guys painting his house. I wasn’t sure if they were related to him, and I didn’t know if it would be better if they were being paid to be ordered around or not.
I wasn’t as whiny as Wes was when it came to stakeouts, but that didn’t mean I liked them. At least I had something to keep myself occupied other than cell phone games. I sketched out the scene in front of me, my pencil moving absently. If I wasn’t pretty sure the dude was scamming his insurance company, it would be the perfect early summer portrait. I added devil horns and a tail to him, and turned the young guys on the scaffolding into imps—then quickly erased them with a shudder. That brought back bad memories.
My Bluetooth earpiece chirped with an incoming call and I glanced at my phone. Wes. I accepted the call. “Yo. Are you bored? I’m not bored. Unlike some people, I know how to amuse—”
“Hudson and I are going to London.”
For a case? It was a little outside our usual working area, but okay. “Drive safe. Take your phone charger.”
“Not London, Ontario, Evan. London.”
“Oh.” I sat up straighter, my attention no longer on my quarry. “Shit, why? Hudson’s brother?”
“Yeah.” Wes’s voice was a bit breathy, a sign he was worried about Hudson. “They think he had a stroke.”
“Oh, damn. How’s Hud doing?”
“Scattered.” Which said it all. Hudson was a no-nonsense, organized guy who always had his shit together. Being scattered meant he was barely hanging on. “I wish I could haunt us there, but I’ve never been, so…”
Even being the God of Second Chances couldn’t get Wes around the rules of his magic. As a not-ghost—long story, believe me—he used to be able to transport himself through the ghostly otherplane to someone he knew. He called it haunting. After he became a god, that ability had expanded, allowing him to teleport himself and other people to the side of someone he knew, or to places he’d been. Which was more limited than you’d think for a guy who was pushing one hundred and twenty years old.
“What do you need me to do?”
Wes let out a breath, clearly relieved. “Come home?”
It was an easy ask—I loved the house I shared with Wes and Hudson, Wes’s best friend, Lexi, Hudson’s niece Priya, and Sam, our resident shifter. Hudson and Wes had bought the huge place in Bridle Path specifically so Hudson’s vampire band could be nearby at all times. It was pretty much a mansion, like all the houses in Bridle Path were, but ours didn’t feel impersonal or like an interior decorator’s dream house. It was a home—comfortable, cozy, and full of fuzzy family feelings.
“Hud wants to make sure you can keep the firm’s lights on while we’re gone—which I know you can, but you know him.”
“Yeah.” I did. Hudson trusted me—and thought of me as a little brother, which I was completely on board with. He wasn’t a total control freak, but he was definitely an A-type personality. “Be there in half an hour, tops.”
I disconnected and started packing up my stuff. Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention and I lunged to turn the camera to record. Roderick had finally gotten his ass moving—and wow, was it moving. Dude was climbing up onto the scaffolding to show one of his imps—er, painters—how to paint the siding. Yep, he was definitely scamming. No one with a back injury as severe as his was supposed to be would be able to scamper up like a monkey.
Check one thing off my to-do list. I was sure Hudson would have a dozen other items for me to accomplish tomorrow.
“There are two meetings with new clients tomorrow. One at 10 a.m. and one at 3 p.m.” Hudson took out one of the shirts Wes had tossed into the suitcase and refolded it Marie Kondo-style.
I nodded. “Got it.”
“And Sam’s got a list of questions from the website that I was going to tackle tomorrow.”
“If the reporter from Canadian Investigator calls back, tell him I’ll get in touch when I’m back in the country.”
Our receptionist, Sam, would take care of that, but I made an affirmative grunt.
“You taught Vamp Junior bad habits, Hud,” Wes piped up from inside the massive walk-in closet.
I shook my head at the old nickname as Hudson gave a grunt of his own. The man had mastered the art of grunting instead of responding with words…and yeah, I’d kind of picked it up. But hey, so had Wes—sometimes—so there.
“Are you taking notes?” Wes made his way toward the bed and the half-full suitcase.
I held up my sketchpad, complete with the caricature of Wes and Hudson on a plane. “Nope.”
“Hey, that’s pretty good. New style?” Wes haphazardly folded a shirt and put it in the suitcase and Hudson predictably picked it up and refolded it properly. Wes didn’t notice.
“I’m playing with it a bit.”
Hud frowned at the picture. “You sure you’re going to remember everything?”
I raised a brow. “Two new client interviews, plus the questions from the website tomorrow, impersonate you for the Canadian Investigator interview.”
“Relax, boss. I know what I’m doing.”
“I know. I’m just—”
“Freaked out,” Wes supplied as he appeared from the closet with a new load of clothes.
“Freaked out,” Hud agreed with a sigh.
“Have you gotten any updates?” I asked softly.
“The last I heard, he was going into surgery. No news is good news, right?”
I wasn’t sure, so I grunted noncommittally.
“Exactly my thoughts.” Hudson refolded another shirt, then seemed to realize that the suitcase was mostly full, and mostly with Wes’s clothes. “Do I not get to wear clothing?”
“If I had my way, no,” Wes singsonged back.
“I’m not parading naked around London.” At that declaration, Hudson joined Wes in the closet, and I chuckled at the bitching between them.
This was family. Maybe not by blood—well, sort of, since Hudson had used his blood to turn me into a vampire. But this was what family was supposed to be. Love without limits or conditions. Love that accepted you, no matter who you were.
“Oh!” Hudson stuck his head out of the closet door, his hands full of pants and shirts in a variety of colors. “We need to discuss new clients.”
“The ones I’ll be meeting with tomorrow?”
“No. I mean the ones who show up looking for special help.”
Oh—those kind. The sort looking for Wes the God and Hudson the Vampire King. “I’m not sure we can hang up a Gone Fishin’ sign for them.”
Hudson scowled. “Well, we’re going to have to. Because like hell you’ll be taking on any paranormal cases while we’re gone.”
I set my shoulders and opened my mouth, preparing for a fight. Hudson might be my sire, and my boss, and my unofficial big brother, but I did not appreciate being told what I could and couldn’t do. Especially not in that almost-not-quite sire voice.
“What Hudson means,” Wes interjected before I could share my displeasure, shooting a glare in Hud’s direction, “is that those cases tend to go sideways.”
“Sometimes,” I countered.
“Most of the time,” Wes counter-countered. “Name one that didn’t.”
It took me a few seconds, but then I snapped my fingers and pointed at Wes. “Finding the witch’s familiar.”
Hudson squinted at me. “Oh, you mean the cat the witch stole from the kid in the unit down the hall and tried to hex you and me so we wouldn’t find out? Which left us wandering Midtown without memories for a couple of hours until Wes found us and did his god thing?”
Oh. Right. I mean, in the grand scheme of paranormal cases we’d investigated, it was one of the more tame ones. There’d been no murder, at least. Or creatures summoned from the beyond. That had to count for something, right?
The deepening scowl on Hudson’s face said no.
“Okay. No paranormal cases. I promise.”
If only I knew how I would come to rue those words.